Matthew Shepard To Be Laid To Rest Friday

Matthew Shepard's final resting place will be Washington National Cathedral

Matthew Shepard's final resting place will be Washington National Cathedral

At the time, according to NPR's Tom Gjelten, Shepard's family did not want his ashes interred, fearing that anti-gay activists would desecrate any burial site they chose.However, after consulting with Robinson - a longtime family friend - the Shepards made a decision to request that Shepard's ashes be interred in the National Cathedral.

According to the Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein, who live-tweeted the service, Shepard's father, Dennis Shepard, also expressed an appreciation for the possibility of the church as a place of hope and refuge for LGBTQ individuals.

Rev. Gene Robinson presided over the ceremony.

"Matthew's death on October 12, 1998, shocked the conscience of the nation and electrified the LGBTQ movement", the church said in a statement on its website.

"Many of you have been hurt by your own religious communities".

A statement from Shepard's mother, Judy Shepard, on the website said the family has "given much thought to Matt's final resting place" and selected Washington National Cathedral because her son "loved the Episcopal church and felt welcomed by his church in Wyoming". They feared his gravesite would be desecrated. "There are forces who would erase them from America", Robinson said. "He loved the fact that it was a safe place for anyone who wanted to enter".

"It is so important we now have a home for Matt."
"You are safe now...welcome home".

"You know, they could have so easily gone home and grieved privately", he said. "By the grace of God", he said, "they decided they were going to turn this horrendous event into something good". "There are three things I'd say to Matt: "Gently rest in this place". "It's the cathedral saying some churches are different", Robinson said.

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Shepard, who attended the University of Wyoming, was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie on the night of October 6, 1998.

Two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who had met Shepard at a bar in Laramie, Wyoming, robbed and beat Shepard, then 21 years old, and left him tied to a fence outside of town. Eighteen hours passed before he was found by passing bicyclists. Police said his attackers targeted him because he was gay. Two men were convicted of the murder, and each received two consecutive life sentences.

In the years since, the circumstances surrounding the case have been disputed, but Shepard's murder has nevertheless come to be seen as a classic hate crime, highlighting anti-gay bigotry.

Shepard's death nearly immediately became a national symbol for LGBTQ rights. The law expanded existing federal hate crimes law to include crimes which had been instigated by sexual orientation and gender identity. Shepard's killing became the basis for a play, The Laramie Project, which brought widespread attention to the problem of homophobia.

Dennis and Judy Shepard have become vocal LGBT advocates through their work with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which they created after their son's murder. In that area is a public chapel, which is outside of the columbarium where Matthew Wayne Shepard's remains will rest. Robinson contacted the cathedral dean, the Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, and Washington's Episcopal bishop, Mariann Edgar Budde, both of whom readily agreed to the placement of Shepard's ashes in the cathedral crypt.

Dennis Shepard speaks at the ceremony before his son is laid to rest. "They began to think this might be the time to lay Matthew to rest".

"Just before I strapped on my bulletproof vest for my consecration, someone hand delivered a note from Judy Shepard".

"Let's be honest", Robinson said.

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